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Fidelia I. Gilger

Fidelia I. Gilger, age 91 of Belle Fourche, SD, died Saturday April 23, 2011 at Spearfish Regional with her family at her side.

Fidelia Irene Tope was born in a snow storm on Oct. 14, 1919 in Belle Fourche. She was the daughter of Herbert Edward and Gertrude Asenth (Hall) Tope. Fidelia’s father and both grandfathers homesteaded in Crook County, WY. If they ever wanted to go somewhere it was by horseback, driving a team, or walking. Her introduction to horses was well-established at an early age, and she loved her kid horse, “Dolly,” and later a colt of hers named “Croppy,” as he was born in the terrible winter of 1936 and had the tips of his ears frozen off.

Fidelia attended school in Belle Fourche, graduating in 1937. She received her teacher’s certificate from Gillette, WY, and her first school was in the home school of Colony with five pupils. She received 80 dollars a month, which was exceptional teachers pay back then. With her money she was able to buy a trick riding saddle. Her and her sister, Rosemary received their first contract at Deadwood, as the “Tope Sisters” and they performed many times following that at the Black Hills Roundup. They also performed at shows in Iowa, North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and all over South Dakota.

On March 14, 1942 she was united in marriage to Douglas Gilger in Sundance, WY, at the Methodist Church. To this union, three children were born: Dusty, Gayla and Paul Daniel. Following their marriage they ranched near Indian Creek. Her life since had been one of ranching, teaching, riding and raising their three children. Douglas died May 10, 1989 and her daughter Gayla on July 5, 2009. Having her two boys nearby was a blessing to Fidelia; as were her many grandchildren and great grandchildren. For the past several years she has lived in Belle Fourche on the south side of the river, about a block and a half from where she was born.

Fidelia is survived by her sons, Dusty (Ellen) Gilger of Boyes, MT; Paul Daniel (Jan) Gilger of Belle Fourche; sister, Rosemary Seymour of Spearfish; brother, Robert (Mildred) Tope of Moorcroft, WY; 12 grandchildren; and 11 great grandchildren.

She was preceded in death by her parents; husband, Douglas Gilger; daughter, Gayla DeCock Fredrickson; and sister, Emajean Mitchel.


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